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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Constanza Helen Silva, Education

Translating actor-network theory: A methodology for the analysis of news stories on massive open online courses from the International New York Times, 2012-2015

Date & time
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Dolly Grewal



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


Actor-network theory (ANT) principles are increasingly migrating into educational research, providing a unique entry point for the study of controversy(ies). While many educational scholars draw on ANT ideas, few have used it methodologically. ANT offers researchers a way to follow actors in unstable, quickly changing situations (Latour, 2005) when relationships that might otherwise be indiscernible become visible (Venturini, 2010). This was the case from 2012 to 2015 when mainstream news coverage on the topic of massive open online courses (MOOCs) reached a peak. Educational scholars have recognized these years as a distinct episode in news reporting on MOOCs and, more broadly, in public debate on an educational technology. Because ANT is a set of principles and conceptual tools rather than a set methodology, the first objective was to translate ANT into a workable approach for the analysis of news stories. Drawing specifically on Latour’s classic text, Reassembling the Social (2005), the research asked: How can an ANT approach be applied to the analysis of news stories? Once translated, the second objective was to demonstrate the translated methodology by following the MOOC controversy across a corpus of 31 news stories published by the International New York Times (INYT) from July 2012 to December 2015. The research asked: What does the translated ANT approach show us about how the controversy of MOOCs in higher education is expressed in the INYT corpus? What is the social that appears? Description and mapping, navigational codes, strands and confluences emerge as a set of methods and instruments for making movements and shifts in meaning within a network of passage-actors explicit. In addition to providing insights specific to the MOOC controversy as expressed in the INYT, this ANT-inspired methodology is a contribution to the growing body of ANT texts in the field of education.

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